As a British woman, I know a thing or two about tea. Tea is the British cure-all for everything. Bad day? Have a cup of tea. Your marriage just fell apart? Have a cup of tea. Your marriage fell apart, then you lost your job, and your home was repossessed? Put the bloody kettle on pronto!
In England, a mug filled with the steamy elixir is an extension of our arms. We Brits generally drink one kind of black tea, but there are thousands of blends all offering different benefits to your physical and mental health. Let’s take a look at some lesser-known teas that you might like to try.
1. Rosebud tea
I first tried this Chinese tea when I was visiting Shanghai. In a tea parlor deep in the French Quarter of the city, I was presented with a porcelain tea bowl filled with pink rosebuds, to which boiling water was added. Rose flowers, especially buds, contain a high concentration of vitamin C — greater than the levels found in fresh fruits like oranges and grapefruit.
Health benefits of loose rosebud tea also include a reduction in digestive problems and constipation. The calming nature of this tea can also help those suffering from insomnia and nervousness. Word of warning though: this tea can have a strong laxative effect, something I didn’t know as I sat in that cafe all afternoon sipping cup after cup and reading a book. That was a fun train ride back to my hotel.
2. Chrysanthemum tea
Another discovery from my China jaunt was chrysanthemum tea. This gently flavored tea is made from the buds of chrysanthemum flowers and has a very subtle floral taste. Drinking a pot a day may help reduce inflammation, serve as a good source of vitamins A and C, and lower blood pressure and cholesterol. This is the tea that Chinese workers take in their flasks to work. It’s perfect for any time of day, as it contains no caffeine.
3. Yerba mate
Yerba mate (pronounced “mah-tay”) is a traditional South American drink. It’s purported to have the strength of coffee, the health benefits of tea and the delightfulness of chocolate. The holy tea-trinity!
Mate, as it’s commonly referred, is made from the leaves and twigs of the Ilex paraguariensis plant. The leaves are typically dried over a fire, then steeped in hot water to create the tea. Lucky for you, it’s also sold in most grocery stores. No need to forage in the South American wilderness and start a fire unless you’re into that kind of thing.
According to a study, yerba mate seems to contain slightly higher levels of antioxidants than green tea. It’s also worth noting that it can lower blood sugar levels. This tea is caffeinated so be mindful of how much you drink.
4. Ginkgo biloba
The ginkgo biloba tree is considered to be the oldest living tree in the world. You may have seen ginkgo biloba sold in tinctures before, with the promise that it will enhance brain function and memory. This is, as yet, unproven. It has high antioxidant powers and plays a role in blood circulation. Ginkgo biloba tea has an earthy woody, taste. Brew it for ten minutes before drinking.
5. Butterfly pea flower
Originating from Thailand, butterfly pea flower tea stands out because of its color. It’s blue, but changes color to purple or pink if lemon is added. It’s like the mood ring of teas. This tea contains an antioxidant called proanthocyanidin, which increases blood flow to the capillaries of the eyes and is supposedly useful in treatment of glaucoma, blurred vision, retinal damage or tired eyes. This plant was traditionally used as a local anesthetic as some say it helps relieve pain and swelling.
6. Cloudberry tea
Popular in Scandinavia, this tea is actually native to the Inuits. This amber infusion has a woody taste resembling maple. Cloudberry tea is a great source of vitamin C. Cloudberries are also packed with iron, omega-3 and omega-6 acids. You can buy this tea in loose leaf or teabag forms.
7. Chocolate tea
Love chocolate, but hate the calories? Then do I have the tea for you. This infusion is made by mixing roasted cacao shells with regular black tea. The cacao shells infuse the brewed tea with a chocolatey flavor without the calories of regular cocoa. Chocolate tea is often served with a splash of milk. Don’t expect it to taste like hot chocolate, though. The chocolatey vibe is found more in the aroma than the taste. Still, it’s better than nothing, especially if you’re on a diet.
8. Flowering tea
Flowering tea, also known as blooming tea, is part beverage, part performance art. This tea consists of a small bundle of dried tea leaves wrapped around one or more dried flowers. When the tea is steeped in boiling water the bundle unfurls like a flower, blooming into life. Flowering tea is usually served in a glass teapot or cup for maximum visual impact. The tea contained within the bundle is usually a mix of chrysanthemum, hibiscus, jasmine and lily.
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Getting serious about tea
Inspired to up your tea game? These items would make a great addition to your kitchen.